Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Breen Case

Brad Sparks (another one of those ufologists who "walks the walk" as opposed to just "talking the talk") has sent me a list of questions about the 1974 Breen case that shows how much there is to learn about many of these largely unknown cases.

It just serves to reinforce my original point from yesterday, that ufologists should be looking at all the old (and new) cases that have slipped under the radar, so to speak, and analyzing them,
instead of endlessly re-hashing the same old arguments about a few old chestnuts (Gill, Socorro) that, barring new information, have little to offer. The RCMP and DND files in Canada, and the Blue Book files in the United States, have all sorts of cases that need sound analysis.

I know this bores certain people within ufology - you know, the kind of folks who would rather listen to Britney Spears than Mozart (or McCartney, for pop afficiandos), or read the latest issue of People Magazine than Shakespeare, but that's their problem. They're the kind of people who can't enjoy baseball unless steroid-powered sluggers are launching home runs every inning. What they don't realize is that the key to solving any mystery, including UFOs, is to set yourself in for the long haul - most of the time, it's a lengthy pitcher's duel. If the UFO enigma is ever to be solved, the easily bored types may be the ones who try to take the credit (anything is possible with this sort), but they won't have been the ones doing the work, and the original thinking. Besides, as my Dad once told me, if you're bored, then you have no-one to blame but yourself.

I have added a very rough map projection of the flight based on the RCMP report. The flight was coming from Deer Lake, which is to the slight northwest of Grand Falls - Windsor, so this rough trajectory makes sense to me. I doubt that Breen flew directly over Grand Falls - more likely he flew a bit to the north.

As a side note for those who have never been to Newfoundland - I have driven across the Province, from Port-aux-Basques to St. John's and back, and can tell you that there isn't much of anything between Deer Lake and Grand Falls, and Grand Falls and Gander, except trees and moose.

Paul Kimball

From Brad:

This sounds like a very good case but it's frustratingly full of gaps. It badly needs investigation. While still fresh in my mind let me indicate the holes in the story that need to be filled:

It is unclear exactly how the UFO was spotted and by whom. One sentence says that pilot/air traffic controller (a very unusual combination first case I've ever heard like that) Breen and girlfriend Gould sighted the UFO 40 miles NW (or was it really W?) of Gander as they were flying in. The very next sentence contradicts that by saying Gould first sighted it 60 miles W of Gander. Did Gould see it first then called Breen's attention to it later? At just over 2 miles/min speed this is almost 10 minutes of sighting by Gould without telling Breen? Or did she see it but it was below the aircraft in a position Breen could not see down far enough to catch it until after 10 minutes of the UFO moving around? Could they both really see down to 90 degrees depression angle or is that just casual talk? What was the depression angle? Weren't there times that one could see it but not the other?

Timothy Good's account [PK Note: Beyond Top Secret, pp. 201-201] quotes from a 1978 article by Gregory Kanon in Canadian UFO Report which does have more of a continuous narrative. He does have Gould seeing it first for an unstated length of time before pointing it out to Breen. And he he has the sighting begin about 50 miles from Gander, which fits the data about sighting the UFO over Grand Falls, see below.

The 60-mile range from Gander is consistent with their 134 mph speed and a 25-minute sighting duration out to perhaps 5-6 miles from Gander (56 miles plus disappearing? a few miles from Gander airport). However it says that Breen's "observation period" was approximately 25 minutes, as if not including a first part by Gould before Breen saw it. But that would make the total sighting actually about 35 minutes and the aircraft would have had to be about 78 miles W of Gander when Gould first saw it. That would fit with the sighting occurring at about 10:10 PM and being reported to Gander at about 10:45 PM, a difference of 35 minutes.

But if they were sure they were over Grand Falls (48° 55' 44.4" N, 55° 39' 1.8" W) then the distance and direction from Gander Airport runway (48° 57' 0" N, 54° 34' 0" W) would be only 48 miles not 60 miles, and it would be almost exactly due W of Gander (azimuth 268°). In that case the total sighting duration would have to be 21.5 minutes or so, not 25 or 35.

It is unclear how it visually disappeared to Breen and Gould on the aircraft. The story just shifts to the radar. The radar data make no sense either. How can the UFO blip be "showing" its heading on the radar screen? It must have a transponder to be doing that. A radar of only 6-mile range sounds like a Precision Approach Radar which are usually narrowly focused on the glide path of landing aircraft so it is very likely an object like a UFO could drop out of the beam by going below treetop level or by ascending above the narrow beam. But if on the scope for only two sweeps not even military radar could tell that the UFO had changed course from heading NW to heading W from one sweep to next (it would need to see course changes between at least 3 sweeps). Also if the UFO had just been reported by Breen-Gould to Gander Airport while 5-6 miles out and it had been paralleling their course then the UFO's heading should have been the same as theirs, or basically headed E not W. Did it suddenly reverse course? But how then could Breen still see it while over the Gander Airport presumably some minutes later so that he could try to circle around to see it again? The PAR radar cannot detect objects in a huge blind zone directly over the airport, they have to be some distance out. The PAR beam is from say 0° at or close to the horizon up to roughly 10° elevation, so an object at 3,000 ft altitude would be lost in the blind zone at a range of about 3 miles unless it dropped lower to stay in the beam (as landing aircraft do of course). Presumably that is when the UFO was briefly acquired by the PAR radar and then lost. But when did Breen lose sight of it? If it was about this time then its course reversal was the cause evidently.

Martin Shough, a very keen radar analyst, has pointed out in agreement with me that there is no way that two UFO course changes could be determined from only two sweeps of a radar, and most likely is a garbling and meant that the UFO target was located W then NW of Gander not that it changed headings from W to NW. Martin also points out that the "6-mile range" is really a typo or error for a standard 60-mile range air traffic control radar, so it probably was not a PAR radar. He pointed out the account in Good's book where Breen is quoted saying that 2-3 sweeps of the radar was about 10-12 seconds which is more consistent with a typical 15 rpm air traffic control radar. The UFO would probably not have disappeared into the overhead blind zone of an air traffic control radar until within about 1/2 mile of the airport radar if still at about 3,000 feet. So Breen could in fact have been over the airport and circling to try to find the UFO again at about the same time as the radar report. However that would still not quite explain why the RCMP report states Breen made the report about 5-6 miles or about 3 minutes out from the Gander airport. Was there a 3-minute delay before the Gander radar briefly picked up the UFO for a few sweeps? Also the account by Good has the first radio report of the UFO made to Gander at about 25-30 miles out not 5-6 miles out.

Naturally one wants to know more about the apparent size of the "greenish light." If Breen could be sure from his dynamic interaction cues that it was about 2,000 feet lower than his plane then his rough distance of 2,000 ft combined with an angular size would give us its actual dimensions. Also we want to know its brightness and how it may have changed if any.

Good's account claims the witnesses reporter a triangular or delta-shaped greenish object, not just a "greenish light" as if of no apparent shape or just a point source. The object at first flashed off and on regularly every 2-4 seconds then became steady. At one point it was seen reflected in the water of Gander Lake.


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